Last year, we at the Welsh Revenue Authority became the body responsible for administering the first Welsh taxes introduced in almost 800 years. The introduction of these taxes also marked a historic moment for Wales.
On 1 April 2018, we began collecting and managing land transaction tax (LTT), which replaced stamp duty land tax, on behalf of the Welsh government. We are also responsible for administering landfill disposals tax, which replaced landfill tax.
Almost one year on, we now have more than 2,000 organisations in England and Wales registered to file LTT on our digital tax system. In our latest LTT quarterly statistical publication, we reported 17,280 LTT transactions with a total of £66.5m tax due (October-December 2018).
We have developed a partnership approach, which we term ‘Our Approach’, in administering theses taxes.
We have taken inspiration from the Welsh language to define this, as follows:
- Cydweithio: this literally means ‘to work together’ and carries a sense of working towards a common goal.
- Cadarnhau: this suggests a solid, robust quality that can be relied on. This is about providing certainty, being accurate and reinforcing trust.
- Cywiro: this literally means ‘returning to the truth’ and is about the way we work with you to resolve errors or concerns.
In simple terms, we are committed to working with taxpayers, agents and other partners to help support them to pay the right amount of tax at the right time.
We often receive queries where agents perceive that anyone purchasing a property that they do not intend to live in will automatically be subject to LTT higher rates. Here is a hypothetical scenario to explain one example in practice.
Question: Jim is 20 and lives with his parents. Jim does not own a property. Jim wants to purchase a buy-to-let as an investment property. Is Jim subject to the higher rates of LTT?
Answer: No. This is because higher rate is not automatically applicable just because Jim is buying a buy-to-let property. The test to apply is to ask the question: How many dwellings will Jim own at the end of the day the transaction takes place? If the answer is more than one, then Jim is subject to higher rates. If the answer is one, he is not.
For more information on higher rates for residential property, visit Higher rates for purchases of residential property: technical guidance.
Putting ‘Our Approach’ into practice
We have established systems, processes and operations which have been specifically centred around the needs of taxpayers and their representatives, based on ‘Our Approach’. We have worked with agents and professional bodies, including the Law Society, on this important ongoing work.
We have responded to feedback on our fully cloud-based, bilingual tax system, which was recently recognised in a UK IT industry award. We are currently making changes to these services, including improving the print-out of the tax return and making the system easier to use. We are also refining the guidance available on our website directly in response to queries and suggestions from industry professionals.
We are proud of our bilingual helpdesk and the experience and knowledge each member has developed on LTT to respond to queries by phone, email and letter. The team works closely with our dedicated LTT specialists to deal with more complex enquiries and, where required, we encourage the use of our free tax opinion service.
Around 80% of LTT queries relate to the application of higher rates on residential property. This is a complex area of LTT where education and engagement can help ensure the right amount of tax is paid at the right time.
We are currently testing a higher-rates online tool. This builds on a series of higher-rates webinars and videos produced around the rules and delivered by our specialist LTT team. We are eager to encourage agents to participate in our testing work. Please contact us if you would like to be involved (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information, visit gov.wales/wra.
Managing tax risk through ‘Our Approach’
We are managing tax risk by taking a holistic view of the different tax risks that exist or may emerge in future by identifying underlying causes and effective solutions upfront. We use our own data as well as data from partner organisations to identify these risks. We also listen to feedback and discuss potential issues with agents, partners and other industry professionals.
Our focus is on minimising the ability for that risk to lead to incorrect tax returns in future, rather than waiting for errors to be made and then focusing resources on retrospective enquiries. We consider engagement and education, improvements to guidance, digital service updates and amending legislation, among other actions, part of this prevention work.
We are committed to introducing a successful approach to tax risk, using ‘Our Approach’, as it will reduce longer-term risk and provide assurance that those paying LTT are paying the right amou nt of tax at the right time. We will act to recover tax where people have got things wrong or are deliberately avoiding or evading tax. And where there is uncertainty, we will work with taxpayers and agents to correct matters as efficiently as possible, taking a proportionate approach.
Sean Bradley is chief legal and policy officer at the Welsh Revenue Authority